The Wheel of Time is a cornerstone of the modern fantasy genre. Many readers love them, while some have never seen the significance or attraction of the monumental series, despite it’s renown. It cannot be denied that the books served as a huge step within the genre, their influence seen in countless books and as inspiration for many, many authors and creators. And it is a series that I had not delved into, at least not until recently.
The Wheel of Time series begins with The Eye of the World where readers will follow Rand, a young, seemingly ordinary sheepherder from a downcountry village, as he is drawn into a world of magic, monsters, heroes, and villains. As creatures from stories become real and ancient evil pursues Rand and his friends, they race to the sanctuary city of Tar Valon, where they must hope they can find protection from this rising darkness that stalks them across the land.
The storytelling in The Eye of the World is masterful. Even before the hook of the story set it, I was drawn into the story for the sake of the characters and the world Robert Jordan created. The strength of the narrative is a fortunate thing, as it took nearly 100 pages for the action to begin, and so many novels nowadays have to rely on an immediate hook to keep readers engaged. Not so with The Eye of the World, the story is engaging simply through the craft of the author, and it hints at a massive and diverse world, which is evidenced by the massive volume of The Wheel of Time series. Even after only the first book, so much of the story can be seen as influences for other authors and storytellers. While I read this in 2021 it seems very familiar at times, as the fantasy genre has been riding a revival of sorts for more than a decade, and its themes and imprint are evident in many other books. I can only imagine how different it must have been to pick it up in the 90s when The Eye of the World was first published.
The use of language and style are somewhat particular, and sometimes highlights surprising choices made by the author. Jordan does a fantastic job with creating vivid details and descriptions, though their length sometimes is counterproductive, taking me out of the action. The descriptions he uses are remarkably distinct, bringing terms and phrases together that should not work, or where they have no seeming connection, but when he presents them, they end up being the perfect use of language for the feel he is trying to convey.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a rapid, fast-paced book looking to constantly reward the reader with unending hooks and action to keep them engaged. The story is intentional, and allows itself to unfold at the pace that is necessary. There is a massive world, with a wealth of lore and mythology (or history, depending on how you look at it), and any other approach would likely overwhelm readers. The Eye of the World is the promise of an expanded world, but the story remains the focus as it follows the core characters through their experiences in a tale that seems too large, but never insurmountable, for them.
The Wheel of Time books are each massive, and knowing that there are more than twenty books in the entire series (along with a TV series coming soon), it’s certainly a daunting undertaking to participate in. With the way that it’s already drawn me in with a steady and intentional story, the legacy of the books with the scope of the science fiction/fantasy genre, I feel as though I am on the cusp of the deep end. If the series is anything like the first book, it will be a slow burn, taking its time where it needs to and allowing the greater story to unfold at the pace it needs to in order to stay true to Jordan’s vision. Beginning this series is long overdue for me as a lifelong reader of fantasy books, and despite the monumental task that lies before me, it’s certainly exciting. With the promise of a long and time-tested series, a story rich with history and lore, and many, many adventures before its conclusion, The Eye of the World, the introductory novel to The Wheel of Time, certainly has earned its place amongst the great books of the fantasy genre.
The Eye of the World is written by Robert Jordan, and is published by Tor.
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